Saturday 3 May 2014

Salomon S-Lab Sense 3 Ultra Soft Ground Review

Ready for the trails: the Salomon S-Lab Sense 3 Ultra Soft Ground
Back in December 2013 I was excited to bring you a review of what I thought was one of the best trail shoes for wet and soft ground conditions that I had ever tried; the Salomon S-Lab Fellcross 2. I thought it would be some time and take some beating to better such a great trail and off-trail shoe, but in next to no time at all Salomon have done just that by releasing their latest shoes in the S-Lab Sense range, the Sense 3 Ultra Soft Ground (SG). I managed to get my hands on a pair of the Sense 3 Ultra SG and set out to test them on my local trails. I knew even before I got out the door that I was in for a treat, as I had never put on such a comfortable trail shoe from Salomon; the fit was perfect! Over the next few weeks I took them out on the trails to put them through their paces, alternating with other trail shoes to get an accurate idea of how the Sense 3 Ultra SG perform. Here is what I found.....

Quality and very comfortable over longer distances
Salomon say.....
"Take the aggressive tread of the SPEEDCROSS, apply it to the low, light and fast S-LAB SENSE concept, and you've got an athlete requested, ultra-distance trail running weapon for soft ground."
Designed for: soft ground grip, ultra distance and to be lightweight

S-Lab Sense Technologies
Natural running:
Natural motion frees the foot to move, with a reduced heel drop for an even foot strike. S-Lab construction reduces weight to make the S-Lab Sense the lightest, lowest racing shoe in Salomon's range. 
Low Heel Drop:
To promote midfoot striking and better agility


  • Super lightweight: 230g (size 8)
  • Low differential at only 4mm (13mm heel and 9mm forefoot)
  • Seamless SensiFit and 2nd Skin seamless construction enhances comfort
  • Quicklace system with lace pocket
  • Tongue cover prevents trail debris entering shoe
  • EndoFit sock-liner holds midfoot well and allows shoe to be worn with or without socks
  • TPU protective toe cap
  • Mud&Snow Contagrip similar to the SPEEDCROSS
  • Profeel Propriotection rock-plate in the forefoot with OS Tendon

To help you understand how these shoes perform I will score them 1 - 10 (1 = low, 10 = high) on 10 categories which encompass a good minimalist trail and fell shoe, giving them an overall CavemanClarke score out of 100:

The Sense 3 Ultra Soft Ground are an extremely lightweight trail running shoe
1) Weight: 9/10
A good running shoe must always be lightweight to allow a natural form and cadence. My pair of UK10.5's weigh in at 280g per shoe. This is an extremely lightweight trail shoe that therefore allows you to run very comfortably without any unnecessary added weight affecting your stride. 

2) Ground feel: 8/10
Of course, these shoes do not have the ground feel of extremely minimalist shoes such as the Vibram FiveFingers but they do allow sufficient proprioception to make for a safe, agile and comfortable run. The Profeel Propriotection rock-plate in the forefoot dissipates sharp stones and trail debris well without compromising too much on ground feel and sensory feedback whilst running. A good balance in my opinion and similar to the feel of the Fellcross 2.

3) Protection: 10/10
The Sense 3 Ultra SG have just enough protection in just the right places, keeping the feet free from unwanted and avoidable injury but still maintaining a lightweight construction.

Protection in all the right places
4) Natural foot position: 6/10
Due to the 4mm heel-toe differential I have to knock-off a few points (one for each mm drop) as I have done in past reviews, as the foot is not in a completely natural position. However, on uneven terrain and especially in wet and muddy trail conditions, this small drop becomes unnoticeable and insignificant and I am more than happy to wear these shoes. This is especially relevant over longer distances, which is what the Sense 3 Ultra SG are designed for.

5) Natural shape of foot: 9/10
The Sense 3 Ultra SG are the best shaped Salomon's I have tried, and it really makes a difference on a run! My foot slips into the shoe, with plenty of forefoot space and room for natural toe-splay, but tightly held by the EndoFit sock liner around the midfoot and also securely locking the heel in its place. It fits like a slipper! 

The most comfortable Salomon's I have ever tried!
6) Comfort: 10/10
The Sense 3 Ultra SG are by far the most comfortable pair of Salomon's I have ever worn and run in. The seamless construction, natural shape and EndoFit/SensiFit constructions hold the foot in all the right places, whilst allowing sufficient room for the forefoot and toes. I have no issues with the last or comfort at all, and this is a first for me with Salomon shoes, as I have always found them to be slightly too narrow in the past, especially when wearing them for long periods of time. This for me, is one of the main selling points of the Sense 3 Ultra SG.

7) Grip/traction: 10/10
I have never been disappointed by the performance of the Sense 3 Ultra SG when it comes to grip and traction. I have tried these shoes on grass, mud, gravel, rock, hard-packed trail and even pavement! In wet, muddy and sloppy conditions I would put it on par with the Fellcross 2 and have not really noticed any significant differences between them on this type of terrain. Where the Sense 3 Ultra SG comes into it's own and surpasses the abilities of the Fellcross 2 is its ability to perform effortlessly over a wider variety of terrain. Yes, of course, it is not at home running the pavements and roads of a city street, but it does provide better stability and grip on hard-packed trail, rock, gravel and dry mud than other serious off-road trail shoes I have tried in the past from a variety of manufacturers. 

The grip and traction of the Sense 3 Ultra SG will not let you down!
8) Durability/Quality: 10/10
So far, no issues here! This is a tough category to judge as only a lot of time and mileage can cast a true light and representation on the durability of a pair of trail shoes, but so far both the grip and the uppers are showing no signs of premature wear and tear. Phew!!!

9) Pricing: 8/10
At a RRP of £140 in the UK, the excellent performance and comfort of the Sense 3 Ultra SG comes at a price. The Sense 3 Ultra SG's are part of the prestigious S-Lab racing range, carefully designed and manufactured to meet the requirements of their top athletes such as Kilian Jornet and Emilie Forsberg. Therefore they will always come at a slightly higher price, but if the cost of these shoes was to drop to around the £100 mark the Sense 3's would obliterate their competition in the trail running market.

10) Design: 10/10
Decide for yourself, but I absolutely love the design of the Sense 3 Ultra SG. When you put them on your feet to go for a run, you immediately feel fast and light! 

A fantastic looking trail shoe makes you feel light and fast.....
CavemanClarke score: 90/100

Congratulations Salomon for creating an extremely comfortable, lightweight and excellent quality trail shoe that performs superbly. I have enjoyed every minute spent exploring the trails in these shoes, and have been very impressed with the performance and comfort I have experienced over a wide variety of terrains and distances. 

I would thoroughly recommend the Sense 3 Ultra SG to anyone wanting to get the most out of their running. Whether you really want to push your limits on race day, or just have a seriously comfy and trustworthy pair of trail and fell shoes that will perform fantastically in soft ground conditions and very well over a wide variety of other terrains and conditions, this shoe is an excellent choice.

Monster grip similar to the Speedcross
About time these hit the trails, never to be this shiny again!
They certainly excelled my expectations. Now to clean them...
Why you would buy this shoe:

Extremely comfortable
Natural running feel
Excellent grip
Very good quality

Quality materials and construction have created a serious trail running weapon
Happy running everyone


  1. Great review as always :) One question: would you recommend these or fellcross2 in races on mud, roots, wet grass and wet cliffs? which one performs better all around? Also, from the pictures it seems that SenseSG offer better protection and also comfort for the feet when comparing them with Fellcross2 (which seem to focus on performance and perhaps neglecting cushioning, protection and confort). What's your thought on that?

    1. Many thanks Paul! I would say hands down that the Sense 3 SG are a more comfortable shoe than the Fellcross, which is much narrower in the forefoot area. The traction and performance seems much the same to be honest; not a lot of diference really. Therefore, I would choose the Sense 3 SG over the Fellcross if I were to buy or run in one of these options!